Travel.State.Gov > International Parental Child Abduction > Country Information > Estonia International Parental Child Abduction Information
Estonia and the United States have been treaty partners under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention) since May 1, 2007.
For information concerning travel to Estonia, including information about the location of the U.S. Embassy, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, entry/exit requirements, safety and security, crime, medical facilities and health information, traffic safety, road conditions and aviation safety, please see country-specific information for Estonia.
The U.S. Department of State reports statistics and compliance information for individual countries in the Annual Report on International Child Abduction. The report is located here.
The U.S. Department of State serves as the U.S. Central Authority (USCA) for the Hague Abduction Convention. In this capacity, the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, Directorate for Overseas Citizens Services, Office of Children’s Issues facilitates the submission of applications under the Hague Abduction Convention for the return of, or access to, children located in countries that are U.S. treaty partners, including Estonia. Parents are strongly encouraged to contact the Department of State for assistance prior to initiating the Hague process directly with the foreign Central Authority.
The Estonia Central Authority (ECA) for the Hague Abduction Convention is the Ministry of Justice. The ECA reviews applications for completeness, translates necessary documents, and forwards applications to the competent civil court in the jurisdiction where the child resides. The ECA can be reached at:
To initiate a Hague case for return of, or access to, a child in Estonia, the applicant should submit a Hague application to the U.S. Central Authority (USCA), along with a statement of the circumstances leading up to and including the removal. The applicant should also provide a description of subsequent efforts to recover and/or maintain contact with the child, and any evidence demonstrating that the United States is the child’s habitual residence. If it has been over one year since the child was abducted, the applicant should include a statement concerning the reason for the delay before filing the application. Although the ECA accepts documents in both English and Estonian, any documents that will be used in a court proceeding must be translated into Estonian. The ECA will assist with such translation free of charge. The USCA is available to answer questions about the Hague application process, to forward a completed application to the ECA, and to subsequently monitor its progress through the foreign administrative and legal processes.
There are no fees for filing Hague applications with either the United States or Estonian central authorities. If the applicant parent does not qualify for legal aid from the Estonian government, he/she is responsible for all attorneys’ fees. The parent’s attorney may be able to recoup some of the costs from the taking parent by petitioning the court. Additional costs may include airplane tickets for court appearances and for the return of the child, if so ordered.
A parent or legal guardian may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for return to the United States of a child abducted to, or wrongfully retained in, Estonia. The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand whether the Convention is an available civil remedy and can provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.
A person may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for access to a child living in Estonia. The criteria for acceptance of a Hague access application vary from country to country. The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand country-specific criteria and provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.
Legal aid is available from the Government of Estonia to qualifying applicants. If an applicant qualifies for legal aid, the Estonian court will appoint a private attorney to represent the parent in the Hague case. The ECA provides assistance to applicants in completing the necessary forms and disclosures in order to petition a court for legal aid. Parents who do not qualify for legal aid must retain a private attorney to represent them at trial.
The U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia, posts a list of attorneys, including those who specialize in family law.
This list is provided as a courtesy service only and does not constitute an endorsement of any individual attorney. The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the persons or firms included in this list. Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the lawyers.
In Estonia, mediation can function as either an alternative or a supplement to Hague litigation. Mediation can take place at any point in the Hague process, and the court also has the option of ordering that parties participate in mediation. The ECA can provide referrals for mediators, who can come from either legal or social work backgrounds. Parties are responsible for costs associated with mediation; however, if a party has been granted financial aid by the court, the costs of mediation will be covered. Further information about mediation in Estonia can be found at this website.
While travelling in a foreign country, you are subject to the laws of that country. It is important for parents to understand that, although a left-behind parent in the United States may have custody or visitation rights pursuant to a U.S. custody order, that order may not be valid and enforceable in the country in which the child is located. For this reason, we strongly encourage you to speak to a local attorney if planning to remove a child from a foreign country without the consent of the other parent. Attempts to remove your child to the United States may:
The U.S. government cannot interfere with another country’s court or law enforcement system.
To understand the legal effect of a U.S. order in a foreign country, a parent should consult with a local attorney in the country in which the child is located.
For information about hiring an attorney abroad, see our section on Retaining a Foreign Attorney.
Although we cannot recommend an attorney to you, most U.S. Embassies have lists of attorneys available online. Please visit the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for a full listing.
For more information on consular assistance for U.S. citizens arrested abroad, please see our website.
Country officers are available to speak with you Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. For assistance with an abduction in progress or any emergency situation that occurs after normal business hours, on weekends, or federal holidays, please call toll free at 1-888-407-4747. See all contact information.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this flyer is provided for general information only, is not intended to be legal advice, and may change without notice. Questions involving interpretation of law should be addressed to an attorney licensed in the relevant jurisdiction.